The Howard County Planning Board unanimously approved a new zoning district Thursday that would allow property owners more flexibility to develop that property.

The Community Enhancement Floating (CEF) District , if approved by the County Council, would give property owners the opportunity to change the zoning of their property within its zoning district.

Planned communities such as Columbia and the M-2 zoned industrial, eastern portion of the county would be exempt from the new regulation.

Howard County Director of Planning and Zoning Marsha McLaughlin said some property owners have had issues developing small pieces of land already surrounded by developed properties because of zoning restrictions.

This regulation would allow owners to request a change in zoning for a property as small as two acres.

The five-member board approved the measure, which was proposed through Plan Howard 2030, despite opposition from five county residents during public comment.

The board first discussed the new zoning regulation during its Oct. 18 meeting, but delayed making a decision until Thursday to allow more time for public comment.

Residents voiced concerns that the regulation gives too much power to developers, while leaving county residents almost powerless in the process.

“This is a huge change and I think once citizens realize the ramifications, it will be a new day,” said Cathy Hudson, president of the Howard County Citizens Association.

The Planning Board did amend the proposed regulation by adding a requirement that a developer show documentation that they worked with the community in their planning. That could be in the form of an endorsement from community representatives.

Turf Valley resident Marc Norman referred to the regulation as “inappropriate, piecemeal” zoning during his public comment.

“This renders you [citizens] completely impotent and powerless,” he said to the board.

The zoning regulation bill is expected to come before the County Council Monday for approval.